30 Apr 2012
Climate Migrants: Legal Options
by Rafael Leal-Arcas
This article covers the broader issues of climate-related migration and provides a legal analysis of climate migration. Although much of the discussion around climate change has focused on how its effects can be reduced, it is now generally accepted that climate change will have widespread impacts and that people must be ready to adapt to those impacts. One of the ways people are likely to adapt is by migrating and, in spite of the fact that this has become one of the most widely discussed areas of climate change adaptation, there is, as yet, no solid grasp of its potential scope. Predictions range from 200 or 250 million to possibly a billion people moving by the middle of the 21st century to escape climate change impacts such as sea level rise, drought and desertification, and greater frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Regions expected to produce the most climate migrants include Africa, heavily populated Asian mega delta areas, and small island nations. People may also move from Mexico to the United States as a result of climate change. Climate change is expected to cause widespread displacement among human populations, and several proposals have been put forward as possible responses to this problem. The paper critically analyzes the issue of climate migration, provides an analysis of the existing law in climate migration, and presents proposals to amend the existing law in climate migration.
Keywords: climate change adaptation, climate change, climate migration, cross-border migration, refugee law
JEL Classification: F22, J61, J62, K32, K33, O15, R23